Carbon Offsetting is the action or process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from industry or other human activity. This can be done by participating in schemes or programs designed to make an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In principle, this sounds great. Companies and individuals can contribute to the reduction of pollution in the air.
So why is carbon offsetting controversial?
The most common comments about the legitimacy of carbon offsetting are:
- People use carbon offsetting to avoid changing their ways
- That carbon offsetting is ‘cheating’
- That it doesn’t deliver real, tangible benefits to sustainability
The carbon offsetting industry is largely unregulated and ungoverned. As a result, there are many horror stories about companies planting trees only to be cut down. Or businesses paying for their carbon offset only to expand on their polluting ways instead of reducing their impact.
As carbon offsetting becomes a more popular tactic, there has been a rise in claims that all might not be as it seems.
Spoof website CheatNeutral.com (now defunct) compares cheating on a partner to carbon offsetting and offers the opportunity to pay someone else not to cheat on their partner to neutralise your own infidelity. Unsurprisingly, the site received a great deal of publicity.
Whilst climate activist and journalist George Monbiot compared carbon offset to the Catholic Churches' medieval practice of selling indulgences. Controversial stuff indeed.
So, it is all bad?
There are pros to carbon offsetting. Not every business or individual can reduce the carbon impact they create. Carbon Offsetting offers a way to remain proactive in the fight against pollution. Carbon offset can also improve social issues, not just environmental issues. Such as providing ‘green’ energy or products to communities. However, any unregulated industry will have good and bad schemes and programs.
A good scheme should not displace emissions elsewhere. Instead, it should aim to reduce or avoid emissions. Finally, it should be verified by a responsible third party.
The Gold Standard
The issue of regulation has not gone unnoticed. In 2017 the UN released a voluntary Carbon Offset program called ‘The Gold Standard’. The program focuses on the UN's Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). Any offset program or Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) can apply for verification.
Uniquely, the program used the ADALYs method over 5-year cycles to monitor the exposure of fine particle matter (PM2.5) as an indicator of pollution levels. (PM2.5) refers to the concentrations of solids and liquids in the air, including carbon, sulphates, other chemicals, dust materials and water. Although (PM2.5) doesn’t have to be exclusively carbon or harmful chemicals. In concentration, it will course long-term respiratory health issues.
Gold Standard projects can’t involve a fuel switch to coal, charcoal or kerosene even if the fossil fuel has a lower carbon emission than the original source. The project's fuel must promote renewable energy.
Who uses The Gold Standard?
As a ‘green’ company, we prioritise and promote being ecological. However, we continuously work to make every aspect of our company low carbon, carbon-neutral or even carbon negative. For example, we are exploring ways to improve the shipment of our paperboard cards from our papermill partners in Sweden to the UK and onwards to our customers. It’s about continuous improvement, and every step forward matters. To ensure we still make a positive impact, we use Carbon Hero to help offset any emissions we contribute to.
Carbon Hero focuses on providing long-lasting social, economic, and environmental benefits by providing carbon offset programs in the energy sector and providing green energy to communities worldwide. Read their 2021 report here.
Be part of the promise to reduce pollution
As an industry, we might not yet have the solution to everything carbon emissions related, but we do have an answer to reducing the pollution and waste created by plastic. If you are interested in continuing your commitment to reducing your carbon footprint, try the switch to our paperboard gift cards today. Not only are they 100% recyclable, but they also use 95% less carbon in manufacturing than plastic cards. Contact a member of our team.